Critical Capitalism: South Korea’s Aspiring Millionaires and the Spirit of the Asset Economy

Critical Capitalism: South Korea’s Aspiring Millionaires and the Spirit of the Asset Economy promotional image

The Korean Studies Research Network, an International Programs affinity group, presents this virtual talk featuring Dr. Bohyeong Kim of Vanderbilt University.

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In this lecture, Kim will talk about how “critical capitalism” has emerged in South Korea as a new spirit of capitalism that socially reproduces the asset economy. Theorizing it as a simultaneous critique and legitimation of capitalism, Kim will argue that critical capitalism has emerged by recuperating emotion, critique, and community. The lecture will present ethnographic stories from a popular “asset tech” (chaeteku) class in which vernacular critiques of capitalism unfolded. Combining the Sino-Korean word chae (meaning finances, assets, or wealth) and the Korean-English word teku (technique), asset tech is defined as “a technique or method to grow assets.”

Based on fieldwork in this asset-tech class that was composed of amateur stock investors, aspiring rentiers, and financial coaches, Kim will identify four themes within its critiques of capitalism—oppression, inauthenticity, development, and finance—and juxtapose each theme against critiques of capitalism articulated in other venues within and outside the academy. Kim will also delve into how the program produces critiques of the developmental state and the financial market.

Dr. Bohyeong Kim is an assistant professor of communication studies and Asian studies at Vanderbilt University. Her research centers on the relationship between media, culture, and the capitalist economy, and her work has appeared in Cultural Studies, Media, Culture & Society, and Television & New Media. She has completed a book manuscript entitled Critically Capitalist: The Spirit of Asset Capitalism in South Korea and is currently working on her second book-length project on South Korea’s platformized inequality.

The Korean Studies Research Network aims to bring together scholars whose research focuses on Korea-related topics and to provide mentoring to the younger generation of scholars. It serves as a platform to facilitate collaborative and interdisciplinary research among scholars and graduate students at the University of Iowa and institutions of higher education in the Midwest through seminars, speaker series, and workshops.

This event is made possible through generous support from the Korea Foundation.

Thursday, November 30, 2023 5:00pm to 6:30pm
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Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa–sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires a reasonable accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact Daniel Vorwerk in advance at 319-467-1619 or